The Continental Cup returned for its third weekend, proving as always to be the bane of any football fan trying to follow the action: little if any video coverage was available, forcing fans to patchwork-puzzle events together from a mixture of club tweets and FA Cup match reports. Bringing you a clear breakdown of the action is Jessy Parker-Humphreys. They report on the unusually high number of upsets and close-calls in the last round of games before the international break.
Group One North
Durham 4 – Coventry United 0
Sheffield United 4 – Blackburn Rovers 1
Aston Villa 2 – Liverpool 0
There is every chance that Liverpool might need to get used to playing Women’s Championship teams, as their poor form in the Women’s Super League has continued into the Continental Cup. They were unable to throw table-toppers Aston Villa off their game. Other results were similarly predictable, with Durham and Sheffield United both convincingly seeing off Coventry and Blackburn struggling at the bottom of the league table. Sheffield United are particularly worth keeping an eye on. The newly-promoted side have shown considerable firepower in both the league and the cup, with Katie Wilkinson already having scored 10 in all competitions.
Group Two North
Everton 0 – Manchester United 3
Manchester City 2 – Birmingham City 1
Manchester City were able to notch up a win after a run of three back-to-back losses across three competitions — but it was not quite as simple as it seemed. Ellen White scored her first goal for the club, which will be heartening for fans; but they were pegged back by Williams’ equaliser. Caroline Weir scored a fine 30-yard strike to give City the win, being able to spot the keeper off her line, but it shows how different this team feel from the squad that easily beat Birmingham 3-0 just three weeks ago.
All the momentum seems to be with the other side of Manchester, as United registered their fifth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions. This defensive strength has provided a firm base from which to demonstrate their considerable attacking talent: they have won all five of those matches by more than one goal, but no player has scored more than one goal in any game — there’s an impressively diverse range of options in the attack. The Continental Cup might be the perfect competition for them to make their mark, just as they announced themselves on the same platform last year.
Group One South
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 – Arsenal 0
London Bees 0 – Charlton 0
Bristol City 1 – London City Lionesses 1
This Group proved to be the group of penalty shootouts, thanks to the Continental Cup’s quirk of going straight to a shootout if there is a draw after 90 minutes in order to award a second point to the winning team. The stand-out result here was Brighton holding a slightly depleted Arsenal team to a 0-0 draw before going on to beat them on penalties.
Much has been made of how teams can cope with playing Champions League football alongside the domestic competitions — Chelsea’s run to the semi-finals last year cost them a real go at the WSL title — and after Arsenal’s midweek thrashing of Slavia Prague to reach the quarter finals, Joe Montemurro rested van de Donk, Miedema and Evans. Brighton have been adept at setting up defensively against superior sides this season, having held Chelsea to a draw in the league. They were able not only to hold on here, but to take the bonus points.
London City Lionesses were able to pull off a similar surprise against Bristol City in their own penalty shootout. The managerless Lionesses took the 2 points, whilst London Bees defeated Charlton. Overall this group is looking like the most open, with just two points separating the top four teams with three games played.
Group Two South
Crystal Palace 0 – Tottenham Hotspur 3
Reading 0 – West Ham 1
Lewes 1 – Chelsea 2
Tottenham’s Kit Graham continued her run of scoring form as she solidified Spurs’ victory over Crystal Palace with the second goal in a 3-0 win. Despite conceding early, Palace held on at 1-0 down for 75 more minutes before their defences were finally broken down. Meanwhile, Alisa Lehmann gave West Ham the victory from long range in a tight game with Reading.
Chelsea were pushed right until the very end to take all three points off Lewes. Erin Cuthbert’s opener was cancelled out by Rood’s magnificent strike after she handily dispossessed Millie Bright. Eventually Chelsea’s quality shone through as captain Magda Eriksson scored the winner. For the third game in a row, Chelsea took three points as a result of goals scored in the final twenty minutes of the game.
Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph